Just picked this up and read it today at a friend's house. A window into another world and an excellent little description of the most amazing chess sJust picked this up and read it today at a friend's house. A window into another world and an excellent little description of the most amazing chess set in the world....more
Really quite a good basic introduction to the history and historiography of the pre-colonial and early colonial period in American history. I read thiReally quite a good basic introduction to the history and historiography of the pre-colonial and early colonial period in American history. I read this as a brush up before I teach the first half of American history this fall, and this ended up being perfect. The author does an excellent job of being concise and of integrating the great scholarship (the longer and more technical scholarship) that I don't have time to get into. For example, I have only read part of William Cronon's Changes in the Land, New Worlds for All admits that one of its early chapters is essentially drawn from that.
Essentially the point is that the relationship is a mutual one, for both good and bad. It is not as if Europeans just destroyed everything and remade America in their own image. Native Americans and Europeans both impacted each other, and the new things that came out of that have forever changed the face of the world. For example, imagine Italy without tomatoes, right?
This is mostly my fault, but I listened to the audiobook version of this, which was an abridged version. Credit @storiesandthyme for helping me realizThis is mostly my fault, but I listened to the audiobook version of this, which was an abridged version. Credit @storiesandthyme for helping me realize how funny it is that I read an abridged version of a book about a bridge. Anyway, I loved what there was of this book, but there were certainly gaps. In other words, I am fairly sure the missing pieces of the book were not entirely the fault of the abridgment, and that some of it was the author's fault. But I think it was mostly the abridgment.
Since the Brooklyn Bridge idea started in the late 1860's with John Roebling and wasn't completed until 1883 by his son Washington Roebling, there are a lot of pieces to the story and a large cast of characters to be sure. The best part of the book is the way that he brings in primary sources of many types to give us a compelling and real picture of life in late 19th century America. Reading this book made me want to read more about Boss Tweed, James B. Eads, the history of New York City, immigration to America, other great engineering marvels such as the Panama Canal, and many others.
I would say that this book is often more biography than it is the story of the bridge. There is not as much as I would have hoped in terms of what happened, year by year, to finally finish building the bridge. I think, also, that this would have been difficult to do in a book because of the visual nature of a bridge, so the remedy this, I plan to watch the Ken Burns/McCullough collaboration documentary about the building of the bridge.
I definitely plan to read more McCullough, and this one was a good start. It reminded me of why I studied the late 19th century for my Master's Thesis. What a fascinating time that we often think we can grasp but then it is just beyond our reach....more
Well, gotta be honest that I didn't read this cover to cover, but i enjoyed what i did read a lot. It was a devotional for this church year, and the nWell, gotta be honest that I didn't read this cover to cover, but i enjoyed what i did read a lot. It was a devotional for this church year, and the new one starts tomorrow, so time to move on. The wisdom from the church fathers and mothers was always interesting, if sometimes hard to piece together....more
Wow, where to begin on this one. An obvious five stars for me. Let me first start by saying that I am aware that this book polarizes opinion, with somWow, where to begin on this one. An obvious five stars for me. Let me first start by saying that I am aware that this book polarizes opinion, with some, like me, loving the way you fully enter into the world of 16th century England in so many details, and others finding this to be too much excruciating minutiae. As a history major, Anglican, and lover of historical epics, this book had me at hello. But if that's not you, then I can see why you wouldn't get into this book. I would say though, try to push through the first 50 pages to get acclimated, perhaps keep a roster of characters, and I am quite sure you will be rewarded.
First, the history. Mantel is not trying to write this as an objective piece of history, and she admittedly wrote this is some ways to reclaim Cromwell. Thomas More is certainly the villain of this book. That is not the say that the characters are one sided--all of them are extremely complex--but it is just to say that she meant to take certain stands on the events. Cromwell is the hero of the story, and his Protestant leanings are clearly the side that you the reader hope wins out. That said, her historical work is impeccable. She apparently kept a card catalog of where all of her characters were at all times (as best as we know from the primary sources), and stuck to this faithfully. She researched this book for like 5 years, and her work certainly produced fruit. She gets so many of the little things right--the food, the calendar, the weather, the geography, the titles, the gender relations, the theology, and on and on. I loved entering this world, and I didn't want to leave.
Next, her characterization. Incredible. You could easily make an argument that this is the main strength of the book, although there are many good candidates there. We get such a unique main character in Cromwell. And her use of the pronoun "he" throughout adds to that unique perspective. Sometimes it was a bit hard to tell who she was talking about, but not having to say Cromwell all the time made me as the reader feel more a part of the character. It is not a first person narrative; it is more of a third person limited bordering on omniscient. It is kind of similar in that way to Harry Potter. We know most everything that we know through the lens of Cromwell, although the story is more fully fleshed out than just his perspective. I also loved the way that the book begins with some key details of his childhood, which she speculates on as the reason for why he turned out the way you did. He is sort of the classic abused orphan who turns his rough experiences into a crucible of growth and intelligence. You could talk about so many of the other complex characters. I think of the Duke of Norfolk with his jangling relics, Sir Thomas More with his permanent sneer at the world and everyone around him, or Anne Boleyn pulling her hands inside her sleeves. And she really did do that by the way.
One other element I want to mention briefly: the theme of the mind/memory palace. Cromwell is an obvious genius with, if not a photographic memory, an ability to use his five senses as a means by which to remember almost everything he has ever known. He knows probably 7 or 8 languages, largely because of his travels through Europe in his younger days, and he remembers all of the account details for the kingdom of England. Despite his mastery, he throughout the book is seeking an alchemist who will build him a physical memory palace that he can use to truly remember everything. The fact that he fails to get it near the end of the book is in some ways a symbol of and foreshadows how Cromwell is finally showing some signs of age and that his star may have reached its peak.
Finally, I listened to this on audiobook, and Simon Slater, the narrator, deserves special credit. His characters come to life, and this is no small task in such an epic book with so many characters. Also the unique use of "he" as I said must have made for some tough decisions about what to say as a quote from another character, what to say as the narrator, and what to say in the voice of Cromwell. I have listened to a lot of audiobooks, and Slater's performance is one of the best....more
This was a perfect follow up to reading the history of Alfred. Chesterton makes no claim to be doing history with his epic poem, but instead uses theThis was a perfect follow up to reading the history of Alfred. Chesterton makes no claim to be doing history with his epic poem, but instead uses the story of Alfred as a backdrop to draw a picture of pre-Norman England as a mosaic of Celtic, Roman, and Anglo-Saxon life and culture. The Danes are not mocked or ridiculed either.
I had not read any lengthy poetry by Chesterton yet, and it was well-worth it. Chesterton is just so prolific. ...more
Apart from the blatant 19th century racist attitudes about how Anglo-Saxons are supposedly better than other races, this book was satisfactory in itsApart from the blatant 19th century racist attitudes about how Anglo-Saxons are supposedly better than other races, this book was satisfactory in its account of Alfred. I'll certainly take it for a free online book until I can get a hold of the Justin Pollard book....more
The only reason I am not giving this five stars is that it advocates corporal punishment. But hey, it was written in the 6th century. And there were mThe only reason I am not giving this five stars is that it advocates corporal punishment. But hey, it was written in the 6th century. And there were many parts of it, such as the importance it places in minor details and the sanctity of seemingly mundane parts of life, that I am sure were quite progressive in their time.
Reading this to learn about how the monastic way of life can inform my life was excellent. The whole way of life is imbued with the peace of prayer and trust in God provision. Christ is above all. What else is there to say? I want to live like that.
This was also interesting read as a primary source and way to learn about the history of Western Europe.
This is over-simplifying it of course, but I am really enjoying reading about three main strains in historic Christianity: Celtic, Benedictine (what becomes traditional Catholic), and Orthodox. Each of these has so much to offer to us modern evangelicals. If nothing else, it keeps us humble to remember all the saints who have gone before us.
Get the librivox version of this. It won't take you long, and you will be encouraged by reading this....more
Jay Jacoby, a man whose literary tastes I greatly value and a medievalist no less, told me to read this before I tried reading the Divine Comedy. I amJay Jacoby, a man whose literary tastes I greatly value and a medievalist no less, told me to read this before I tried reading the Divine Comedy. I am very glad that I started here. The author has a knack for being concise yet also packing in a lot of good information. What became clear through reading this book is that Dante was an incredibly well read man, who poured years of study and thought into the comedy. So beyond the poetic beauty of the work, there are references upon references to understand in order to truly value the work. Lewis' work makes doing that a little bit more manageable in this work.
I suppose you can say that he did his job well if he makes you want to read Dante himself, and he certainly did that. But overall, I respect this writer's work because he fuses history, literary criticism, history, and other genres into one well-coordinated piece of writing. I would certainly read some of his other works as well. ...more
The weakest one I have read in this series, but I still enjoyed it. The other two I have read were How the Irish Saved Civilization and Mysteries of tThe weakest one I have read in this series, but I still enjoyed it. The other two I have read were How the Irish Saved Civilization and Mysteries of the Middle Ages, and every time you get at least decent history written in well-crafted language, so that always keeps you interested.
I must say I did feel like I was awash in the sea of Greek history and culture, which at times made me cringe. Don't read this book if you are overly punctilious about sexual practices. Sometimes it is easy to see why the early Christian churches had a lot to struggle against from the surrounding Greek societies they lived in. I will just sum it up by saying that Cahill goes into a lot of detail about Greek sexual practices that we would consider literally criminal today. But at the same time, the great strengths of the Greeks come out--the enlightened thinking of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, the wonderful lyricism of its poets and playwrights, the austere wisdom of Pythagorus, the political acumen of Pericles, etc., etc. So balance is one main strength of this book.
But it never really felt like it had a flow or coherency through its discussion, and perhaps this is hard to do with such a lengthy period of history.
His arguments near the end of the book concerning the impact of Greek civilization and culture on the wider world had some basic truths, but he painted with too broad of a brush for me to really be able to agree with him.
Two more to go in this series: Desire of the Everlasting Hills and The Gifts of the Jews. Onto some other books before I get to those. ...more
I didn't read the whole thing but I enjoyed what I did read. I was looking for a book more about Yellowstone and less about the history of the AmericaI didn't read the whole thing but I enjoyed what I did read. I was looking for a book more about Yellowstone and less about the history of the American west, hence why I stopped. But for a book I just picked up off the shelf at the library, it was quite good. Good research, commitment to telling the full story, and it did make me more excited to visit Yellowstone. This book basically ends when it becomes a park, so know that if you think of reading it....more
A very nice narrative piece of history. I have read other Ambrose in the past (Band of Brothers, D-Day), so I knew I was going to get a well-researcheA very nice narrative piece of history. I have read other Ambrose in the past (Band of Brothers, D-Day), so I knew I was going to get a well-researched, compelling book, and a history that makes for good reading because it is not overly technical or footnoted. Are some of the concerns about his scholarship legitimate? Probably, yes. He speculates a lot and makes some choices that other historians wouldn't make, but I have no problem with something being popular history, provided that the author admits that it is popular history, which he probably should have done more of. In fact, I think the field of history's biggest problems is an inability to do more effective popular histories--to get their work to a wider audience.
As for this book itself, it is the thrilling tale of the Lewis and Clark expedition, told through the lens particularly of Lewis and Jefferson. The author makes use of lots of various primary sources to craft his work, and this makes it very real and helpful in terms of understanding the reality of what it would have been like to live back then. What Lewis and Clark accomplished, and Jefferson in part as well by crafting the expedition and making it a political reality, is truly remarkable, and the book is worth a read just for that. Having been out west last year at Bozeman, MT and Yellowstone National Park, the geography of their expedition made all that much more sense to me.
I don't want to give too much away about what happens because, of course, even though you are reading history, not knowing exactly what happens on the next page is part of what makes this a fun book. But I will say the ending of the book felt a bit rushed. I wished he would have added more of Clark's perspective throughout, especially at the end, because there are large gaps when Lewis does not journal, which leaves us as readers feeling some gaps in the narrative. Some of this could have been filled in more by Ambrose with more from Clark. Some of the downfall of the ending is not Ambrose's fault; the story naturally has a sad ending, and he describes the reality of that. But I think we as the readers really wanted to know about the expedition, not just about Lewis.
Fascinating book overall, though, and I certainly plan to keep reading more Ambrose. ...more
Another excellent Bryson book. While I have only read Notes from a Small Island by him other than this one (meaning I believe I have read his bookendAnother excellent Bryson book. While I have only read Notes from a Small Island by him other than this one (meaning I believe I have read his bookend books--first and most recent), it was interesting to notice how he knew a lot about certain subjects because he had written books previously about them. For example, he often could use Shakespearean England as an example because he has written a book about Shakespeare.
Anyway, I love Bryson's work, and I will continue to read his books until I have read all of them. He has such a good combination of honesty, fresh prose, diligent research, and curiosity in his books, that they are irresistible.
For someone like me who loves the liberal arts, this book is a dream because the home is just an excuse for him to venture into whatever territory he wants to and believes his readers will find intersting. That said, the book could easily have become lists of random thoughts, but he found unique ways to weave in themes, such as the year 1851 seeming to come up as significant in every chapter. Another example of this is characters that came up in early chapters for one reason coming up in one or two later chapters in very different contexts. We almost get the impression that Victorian England was one big, dysfunctional family that all knew each other. Anyway, that goes for the upper classes. For the lower classes, the suspicions I have always had were largely confirmed--growing up in an urban setting as a poor person in England sometime in the 1800's has to be one of the more miserable forms of existence in human history. Of course, we can never judge that for sure, but the way that Bryson brings in so many primary sources, often in the form of quotes that I can't imagine how long it took him to dig up, leads me to believe his portrayal.
Looking forward to my next Bryson, but will it be Shakespeare, Australia, Short history of nearly everything, Walk in the woods, or his autobiography? ...more
Not a bad book, and I certainly enjoyed reading it, but not everything it could have been by a long shot. I read this one last weekend (it goes very qNot a bad book, and I certainly enjoyed reading it, but not everything it could have been by a long shot. I read this one last weekend (it goes very quickly), and essentially thought that it needed to bring in stronger thematic elements. It is a piece of historical fiction, which actually gets the history fairly well (14th century history in England), but whose story is fairly straightforward. Because it is so much about the central character--the boy Crispin--we don't really get to know enough other characters well to bring out larger themes.
My guess is that they gave Avi the Newberry for this one more as a sort of lifetime achievement award. He certainly deserves that, but this book in and of itself does not come close to the level of other recent Newberry winners--especially the Graveyard Book.
It was a fun enough read though, that I probably would read the other ones in this series....more